T-Birds outlast Kamloops to complete a six-point weekend
By Andy Eide
The Seattle Thunderbirds played their third game in as many nights Sunday evening in Kamloops.
After a long bus ride they showed no signs of fatigue and hung on to beat a desperate Blazers squad 4-3. Mathew Barzal scored another big goal as he broke a 3-3 tie with just over two minutes left in the game. It was the third straight game that he has scored an important third-period goal.
“He’s come up really big,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “He’s played two huge games for us. What a play for him to help get us a win tonight. I think everybody is pinching in.”
Seattle got contributions from their entire roster on Sunday night. Defenseman Brian Allbee scored twice — the first multi-goal game of his WHL career. goalie Logan Flodell gave Landon Bow a night off and continued his strong February by making 32 saves in the win.
The third period turned into a crazy affair that saw some big momentum swings.
Seattle had a 3-2 lead when Andreas Schumacher was called for roughing with seven minutes left in the game. Konowalchuk was not happy with the call — as well as many other questionable calls during the game — and expressed his frustration. He yelled for an explanation and raised his arms in the air, which is something you see almost on a nightly basis from coaches around the league.
For some reason, on this night, it warranted a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the coach. It gave Kamploops a five-on-three power play opportunity. They wasted no time to capitalize on it and tied the game when Dawson Davidson fired a puck through traffic.
“I was obviously upset with a lot of the calls today,” Konowalchuk said about the curious call. “If I’m guessing it was because I waived my arms in the air asking for an explanation. I’ve got to better there, you never know when they’re going to call penalties there. You’ve just have to be disciplined, the team bailed me out.”
With time running out, Barzal would score to put Seattle ahead for good. Nick Holowko took a shot from the slot that Blazers’ goalie Connor Ingram stopped. The rebound went right to Barzal’s stick and he buried it for his 22nd goal of the season and fourth of the weekend.
“It was a good win,” Konowalchuk said. “I thought our guys were ready to play. Overall a pretty strong game. They’re all going to be crazy games right to the finish so you just have to play them out.”
Seattle played this one out even though they fell behind early.
The Blazers took the lead mid way through the first period when Cage Quinney blasted a point shot that got over Flodell’s shoulder. The score would stay that way into the second when Seattle would score two power-play markers to take the lead.
The first came from Allbee who bombed a shot from the point. Nolan Volcan would score a power-play goal of his own to put the T-Birds ahead 2-1.
Kamloops would tie the game on the power play when Ryan Rehill scored from the point. Seattle wasted no time getting their lead back however. Just 26 seconds after Rehill tied it up, Barzal sent the puck across the zone to Allbee who fired again and again beat Ingram.
With Ethan Bear still out with an injury, Allbee certainly stepped up.
“He’s got a good shot,” Konowalchuk said. “It was good for him to get it off because he can shoot it.”
The win allowed Seattle to keep pace with first place Everett, who beat Tri City at home Sunday evening. The two teams are separated by three points for the top spot.
The T-Birds are playing perhaps their best hockey of the season at the most critical time of the season. They picked up six points this weekend and have won four straight and eight out of their last ten.
With the games being as big as they are, Seattle has won close games. They’ve won games where they trailed and once again haven’t let the adversity of the game throw them off.
“One shift at a time,” Konowalchuk said about his team’s mentality. “You can’t worry about what happened before. After big plays against you have to be able to jump right back on them.”
The T-Birds have certainly been jumping back on them.
Barzal commented earlier in the week about big players needing to step up at this time of the season. While he’s playing a good team game, he’s certainly shown that he’s a big player. He notched two more points Sunday night and extended his point-streak to ten straight games.
Ryan Gropp, who hails from Kamloops, was held off the scoreboard which snaps his nine-game point streak. He did finish plus-2 for the evening.
Seattle was 2-for-4 with the power play and both goals were scored by the second unit. Seattle did struggle killing penalties, which has been a rarity this season. All three Kamloops goals came on the power play and the Blazers ended the night 3-for-7 on the night.
Seattle’s run down the stretch continues on Tuesday night when they will host the Tri City Americans.
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.